For a town colonized by Spaniards, our city strangely lacks in their national cuisine. But the bold, garlicky flavors of the Iberian Peninsula are popping up around L.A., and if you know where to look, you can find authentic paella, croquetas and fresh-from-the-bone jamón all across the city at some of L.A.’s best restaurants. Whether you’re craving imported tinned fish, plate-size tortilla Española or the most luxurious and modern takes on the cuisine, here’s where to do as the Spanish do—and don’t forget the gin and tonics.
10 best Spanish restaurants in L.A.
Best for: croquetas, dessert
L.A.’s Spanish fine-dining gem is far from traditional. The decor is sleek and modern, and the classics are deconstructed so stylishly that it could only be José Andrés behind them: The tortilla Española is served not as a frittata-like disc but as a jar of potato foam and soft egg, while marinated green olives arrive both whole and in spheres of liquid. Expect the same molecular gastronomy tricks that helped the Asturias-born chef rocket to fame, but that’s not to say that the Bazaar doesn’t nail the simple stuff. The croquetas (here filled with ham and béchamel) practically melt in your mouth; the paella-like rossejat, dyed jet black with squid ink, is rich and seafood-laced to the ideal extent; and the flan is worth a skirmish with your tablemate for the last bite.
Best for: pan con tomate, boquerones
Classic dishes from Valencia and Catalonia fuse with chef Teresa Montaño’s urban, global approach for an old-world–meets–new-world spin on Spanish cuisine. From the kitchen of her cozy shotgun restaurant, Japanese dashi sneaks into the paella, while even the pan con tomate sprinkles in a little something extra: tomato essence, in addition to the traditional tomato spread and raw garlic. Gin-and-tonic goblets brimming with herbs and botanicals await, as do vermouths, sherries, small-producer natural wines and other tipples from beverage director Gavin Koehn, all the better to snag at $8 and under during “Siesta Hour,” from 4 to 6pm.
Best for: selection of tapas, ambience
The scent of seafood, garlic and saffron hits you the second you enter this Westside mainstay, which feels more like a friend’s hacienda than a restaurant. Colorful ceramic plates line the walls, the lighting is low and warm, and the tapas come out sizzling in delectable pools of garlic and olive oil. As the name suggests, the paella is the focus, but we're smitten with the lengthy list of tapas: flavorful shrimp, grilled squid, simmered meatballs and more. By far the city’s most authentic in congeniality and ambience, La Paella is a restaurant where we would be more than happy to enjoy a long lunch, take a siesta and then return for dinner the same day.
Best for: paella, cured meats
Drive through a warehouse district, turn down a dead-end side street and join the line at this tiny storefront—you’ve reached your paella destination. On weekdays, L.A.’s best Spanish deli hawks baguettes packed with jamón, cheese, or tuna in tomato sauce, but on Saturday mornings, Angelenos trek from far and wide to chow down on authentic bomba rice dotted with mussels, pork loin, jumbo shrimp and other goods. Order ahead to secure the elevated varieties, such as squid ink or all chicken, and don’t forget to grab jars of imported olives, slices of Ibérico ham and thick wedges of Manchego cheese before you leave.
Best for: tortilla Española
Spaniards take full advantage of their coastline, so it should come as no surprise that one of the best Spanish restaurants in L.A. is just a block from ours. Gabi James adds a bit of Redondo Beach into the mix, with beach-themed gin-and-tonics, the South Bay Caesar salad and other playful offerings. Of course it nails the traditional dishes, too: Come here for the best tortilla Española in town, stacked inches high with thin slices of potato and sweet pops of caramelized onion—perfect for a post-beach snack, if you ask us.
Best for: patatas bravas, bocatas
We could easily pen a love letter to this food truck’s garlic aioli, but our devotion wouldn’t come close to the love the French-Spanish couple behind Tumaca imbues into their bocatas. Victor and Sybil Roquin’s toothsome sandwiches always feature a blend of signature Spanish ingredients: piquillo peppers, serrano ham, dry-cured chorizo, Manchego and romesco, to name a few. But the offerings don’t stop there: The rolling restaurant also slings some serious tapas, including garlicky patatas bravas, albondigas and croquetas, as well as imported goods such as olive-oil tortas (sweet crackers) from Seville.
Best for: live entertainment
A Spanish tavern and flamenco club since the early 1960s—and a cabaret long before that—Silver Lake’s subterranean hideout is a long-time favorite for dinner and a show. These days, the on-site theatrics skew more toward burlesque and stand-up comedy, and the food’s been revamped, too: Last year, chef Jason Fullilove launched El Oso in the space, a restaurant where you’re just as likely to feast on croquetas, paella and pulpo a la plancha as you are tandoori-spiced chicken. (And if you're here for tradition, don’t worry: You can still catch flamenco dancing on Saturday nights.)
Best for: pintxos, luxury
Casey Lane's Basque-inspired restaurant at the base of Hotel Figueroa is a total mood: Tufted leather booths, low lighting and plenty of Spanish-leaning cocktails set the scene for a luxurious evening. Start with the pinxtos—little bites such as truffled quail eggs, marinated vegetables and crispy croquetas, for instance—which occasionally roll by on a cart for your browsing pleasure. Sadly, due to the foie gras ban, you can no longer add the offal to any small plate for $20—a shame, but there's still plenty of opulence to be had: vermouth-braised fish anyone? Roasted bone marrow, perhaps? Whatever you do, don't miss the chicken wings in a sherry glaze.
Best for: brunch, empanadas
When a motorbike enthusiast and a Spanish-Dutch chef love each other very much, you get Gasolina Café—in case you were wondering how all of those vintage helmets and Spanish Grand Prix posters wound up alongside an all-day menu of pan con Manchego and tortilla Española. But there’s an even bigger draw than the retro biker decor: Spanish fare with an approachable, diner-like twist. Forget a side of bacon with your eggs; instead, you want the griddle-fried serrano ham a la plancha. Craving French toast? Opt for the weekend-only torrija, dusted in cinnamon and sugar. The home-fries–like patatas bravas make the trip worth your while, but be sure to keep your eyes peeled for paella nights and daily specials, such as the Galician empanadas.
Best for: deals on sangria
This is the dive for homesick Spaniards. A hole-in-the-wall spot at the end of a strip mall, Spain Restaurant offers no-frills cuisine and $4 filled-to-the-brim glasses of sangria, to imbibe as you watch the multiple screens sporting fútbol. The real star is the lengthy list of tapas, some rarely found in Americanized Spanish restaurants—like the sliced chorizo sautéed in a rosemary-laced red wine sauce. Craving a taste to-go? There’s also a small deli at the front selling imported meats and tinned fish.